An accidental Virginian

Nid oes a wna brydydd onid Duw a Nattur.

(Nothing makes a poet save God and Nature.)

In 1723 on the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon), a boy was born who would grow up both troubled and greatly talented.  He is still celebrated as one of the great poets of Wales, who revitalized two ancient meters, the awdl and the cywydd. His name was Goronwy Owen and he died, strangely enough, in Virginia.

Like many creative people, he had difficulty holding on to regular employment.  He drank too much. He experienced great losses, not least of which was what amounted to exile from his homeland after 1746, being unable to find work there.  He buried two wives and several children.

Virginia was hardly a place Owen wanted to go.  For years, he had longed to return to his native island and wrote, “Pa bryd y caf weled f’anwylyd Mon doreithiog a’i man draethau?” (When shall I see my beloved fertile Mon and her tiny beaches?) Yet, with a family to support, he had to go wherever work could be found, and in 1756, that meant leaving Britain forever for a job at William & Mary.  He got on the ship with a pregnant wife and two children.  He arrived in Virginia with the children.

Once again, drinking and ‘riotous behavior’ meant he was not long employed.

The final ten years of his life, Owen was the pastor at St. Andrews in Brunswick County. He had a small farm where he grew tobacco.  No doubt he continued to pine for his homeland.

You can find more on Goronwy Owen online, or, you might be able to find a copy of Branwen Jarvis’ 1986 book Writers of Wales: Goronwy Owen.

I leave you with a short poem of Owen’s.

Diwedd sydd i flodeuyn

Ac unwedd fydd diwedd dyn.

Gnawd i ardd, ped fai’r harddaf,

Edwi, ‘n ol dihoeni haf.

(There is an end to a flower/And such is the end of man

The habit of a garden, though it be the loveliest

Is to wither, after the decline of summer.)

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The flowers in this picture are snowdrops, which not only bloom on Owen’s grave, but also bloom every year at his birthplace, Dafarn Goch.

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